Gutu (Masvingo Star-New Ziana) – Rural farmers in Gutu have expressed fears that they might not be able to plant this forthcoming rain season due to lack of draught power after their cattle were decimated by a tick-borne disease early this year.
The disease outbreak left many cattle dead, putting villagers that rely on ox-draught power in the area, in a quandary as the farming season nears.
One of the affected farmers, Felix Tangirai of Matizanadzo Village in Chief Mukaro’s area said he would be forced to reduce the hectarage under various crops because the disease had left his cattle kraal empty.
“My major concern is how I’m going to prepare for next year’s food security, it is mind boggling I’m likely to reduce the size of the fields to plough which will not be sufficient for my family,” he said.
“My cattle died as a result of that disease and now I’m only left with the option of zero tillage of which I can afford only a small portion, I cannot hire cattle since I’m facing economic hardships right now” said Tangirai.
Many other villagers in Matizanadzo Village also lost their draught power when their cattle succumbed to the diseaae, putting paid even to the idea of them pooling resources together to plough their fields.
A crop and livestock extension worker for the district’s Ward 26 confirmed that he is encouraging the farmers to resort to zero tillage whereby planting is done on unploughed land.
He said large numbers of people in Ward 26 were already practicing the soil conservation farming style before the onset of the draught power crisis.
Another farmer who refused to be named said in addition to lack of draught power, the likelihood of poor harvests was being increased by the lack of certified seed as most rural families cannot afford the high prices of inputs being charged by most shop owners.
He said the farmers were faced with the possibility of planting uncertified seed mainly from grain they received for drought relief which would drastically affect their yields while the deaths of their livestock also robbed them of a major source of fertiliser in animal manure.
Meanwhile, the recent Masvingo Provincial Agricultural Show recorded a marked decline in the number of farmers taking part in the annual event this year due to the prevailing economic hardships.
The Zimbabwe Farmers Union coordinator, Adwell Dondo, said in an interview on the sidelines of the show last week that farmers who exhibited this year were fewer and their exhibits were much less compared to last year.
Transportation was one of the challenges faced by farmers as they could not manage to come from their districts to the show.
In the past years, rural district councils gave farmers transport money but only two districts managed to give their farmers transport allowances this year.
“We are happy with those that made it here though the number has dropped from 200 to 119,” he said.
He said another challenge was that farmers had not harvested much due to poor rainfall in Masvingo province. Exhibits for groundnuts and beans were few. He said he was however happy that some of the seed was of good quality though there was less quantity.
The overall winners among the farmers as per districts were Gertrude Hokoyo (Zaka), Nyasha Taruvinga (Mwenezi), Chetai Sibanda (Chivi), Runesu Chess (Gutu) and Alice Tadzingwa (Chiredzi).